Pitch count a big part of Rockies' 2013 rotation plan

Pitch count a big part of Rockies' 2013 rotation plan

SAN DIEGO -- Friday's announcement that the Rockies are planning to use a five-man rotation in 2013 was a meaningful one, given the team's well-documented experimentation with the four-man approach for much of 2012. But, in reality, Colorado has been in a five-man setup for much of the past month, in particular since the return of Joulys Chacin in late August.

For players and coaches, then, the most important part of the announcement was not necessarily the number of pitchers used, but rather the number of pitches: Rockies Assistant GM Bill Geivett said next year's starters will have between 75 and 90-100 pitches to work with, rather than the 75 they've been held to for much of this season. That, says manager Jim Tracy, is a crucial point.

"No doubt, that's my understanding," Tracy said of the extended pitch-count portion of the 2013 plan. "That, in itself, can change the dynamics of a lot of things. Personally, in a very positive way."

"We were going to do what they told us to do, but it's nice to know you have the four-days' rest between starts and they're going to allow us maybe a few more pitches here and there when we deserve them," starter Alex White said.

As Tracy discussed Saturday's starter Drew Pomeranz prior to the game, he spoke to the efficiency the Rockies have tried to emphasize from starting pitchers this season, a lesson the short 75-pitch pitch count forced them to learn.

But even so, giving his starters a chance to work deeper and complete what they began is something Tracy values.

"This is something that we're trying to encourage not only [with Pomeranz], but to all our guys is the importance of being efficient," Tracy said"Having a lead and having to pull him, that's not something I like to do. You'd like to give that guy the opportunity to be involved in a chance to win the ballgame. But if he runs his number way up, then you move forward with it and make the switch."

Part of the reason the Rockies went to the four-man, piggyback approach in the first place was the fact that Tracy was consistently having to make switches early in ballgames, something that took a toll on the young arms in his bullpen. While Geivett said the piggyback role will remain, and that Adam Ottavino, Guillermo Moscoso, and Carlos Torres will each pitch every third day on a maximum of 45 pitches, the differences in the 2013 approach are positive ones in the eyes of the Rockies.

"We've really been on a five-man for a while now. It's really not a shock, I think we've been pitching well," White said. "They've figured out a plan to be able to stay with a five-man and also protect members of the 'pen. We're all excited. Moving forward, I personally think that's going to be good for us, staying on a five man, help us compete in this division."

"Using five starters makes an incredible amount of sense to me," Tracy said.